It's a wrap! Paper-sealed foods prove to be palate- pleasers

May 30, 1993|By Susanne Davis | Susanne Davis,Contributing Writer United Features Syndicate

Sealing a chop or a fish fillet in paper wrapping and popping it into a hot oven is hardly a new trick -- the French have done it for centuries. Louis XIV's mistress, Madame de Maintenon, is credited with inventing the technique. She had lamb chops trimmed of their fat and baked en papillote for those times when the royal digestion needed a respite from heavier fare.

The beauty of this old method is its relevance to today's low-fat cooking. Meats, vegetables and fruits can all be prepared without adding a drop of fat. In the oven, steam rapidly builds up inside the package to cook the contents efficiently, without any loss of nutrients.

To prepare a papillote: Cut a piece of parchment paper (available at kitchenware stores) or aluminum foil about 12 inches by 16 inches. Fold in half to form an 8-by-12-inch rectangle, then cut into a half-heart shape as you would a valentine. Open the heart and arrange the food in the center of one side of the heart. Fold the other half of the heart over to cover the food and bring edges together.

Seal the package by crimping the cut edges together in a series of small, neat folds. Bake in in a hot oven (400 degrees ) for 10 to 12 minutes.

Chicken with mustard and leeks

Serves four.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 pound total), trimmed of fat

4 teaspoons coarse-grained mustard

2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and cut into 2 1/2 -inch-long julienne strips

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 1/2 -inch-long julienne strips

4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 4 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil for papillotes. Place a chicken breast in the center on one half of each opened paper heart. Spread mustard evenly over chicken breasts. Distribute leeks, carrots and thyme over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Seal the packages and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the packages are puffed. (You may want to open one package to check that the chicken is no longer pink inside.) Transfer the packages to individual plates; let each diner open his or her own package.

Per serving: 189 calories, 28 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrates, 168 milligrams sodium, 66 milligrams cholesterol.

Chicken with grapes and mushrooms

Serves four.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 pound total), trimmed of fat

2 cups seedless red grapes, sliced in half

1/4 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (2 cups)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup brandy

salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 4 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil for papillotes. Place a chicken breast on one half of each opened paper heart. Distribute grapes, mushrooms and tarragon over the chicken. Spoon a little brandy over top and season with salt and pepper. Seal the packages and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the packages are puffed. (You may want to open one package to check that the chicken is no longer pink inside.) Transfer the packages to individual plates; let each diner open his or her own package.

Per serving: 197 calories 27 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 76 milligrams sodium, 66 milligrams cholesterol.

Quick vegetable ragout Serves four.

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups frozen lima beans

2 cups frozen artichoke hearts

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

salt & freshly ground black

pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 4 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil for papillotes. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together wine, tomato paste, basil or parsley and garlic. Add lima beans, artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the vegetable mixture among the prepared papillotes, placing it in the center of one half of each opened paper heart. Seal the packages and place them on a baking sheet; bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the packages are puffed. Transfer the packages to small individual plates and serve.

Per serving: 156 calories 9 grams protein, 1 gram fat, 30 grams carbohydrates, 164 milligrams sodium, 0 milligrams cholesterol.

Fillet of sole with spinach and tomatoes

Serves four.

12 cups spinach (1 1/4 pounds), trimmed and washed thoroughly

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound sole fillets

4 small plum tomatoes, sliced

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 4 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil for papillotes. Put spinach, with water still clinging to its leaves, into a large pot. Cover; steam the spinach over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain; when cool enough to handle, press out excess liquid. Chop and place in a small bowl. Stir in garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Place one quarter of the spinach mixture in the center of one half of each opened paper heart. Lay a sole fillet over the spinach and arrange tomato slices over the sole. Season with salt and pepper. Seal the packages and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the packages are puffed. (You may want to open one package to check that the fish is opaque.) Transfer the packages to individual plates; let each diner open his or her own package.

Per serving: 156 calories 27 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 231 milligrams sodium, 55 milligrams cholesterol.

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